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Heads' union tries to heal workforce deal rift

Senior figures in the largest headteachers' union met to try to smooth over internal divisions yesterday, as their leader lambasted his members for their "serious misjudgement" in withdrawing from the workforce agreement.

David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers' general secretary, believes that those who voted to pull out must decide how to secure the money that primaries say they need to implement the deal. In a letter to The TES, he says he has yet to see a coherent strategy from them. His stance puts him at loggerheads with Mick Brookes, who will succeed him as leader in September.

"It is not up to us to set out a strategy to secure the funding," said the Nottinghamshire junior-school head, who beat the NAHT's official leadership candidate by more than two votes to one. "We have firmly batted the ball back into the court of the Government and of the other teaching unions signed up to the deal."

Yesterday's meeting was aimed at avoiding conflict at the association's annual conference in Telford next week and working out a motion on the workforce deal that the national council could put forward. Mr Hart's letter says that confrontation will not help members.

But that seems inevitable if two conference motions calling for enough money for schools to use qualified teachers for PPA cover are passed.

The call, being backed by Mr Brookes, would have huge funding implications for the agreement, which its signatories have always said would rely on more help from support staff. Mr Brookes said: "Schools should not be forced into using non-teachers."

With the funding position unchanged since last month's withdrawal, the NAHT council will not want another bloody nose from grassroots members. It may, however, attempt to wrest control over re-entry to the deal back from them, by submitting a motion backing the principle of the agreement and authorising council to negotiate a return when it sees fit.

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